Who is Levi Celerio? Songs, biography, awards, and contribution

Who is Levi Celerio? Songs, biography, awards, and contribution

Filipino composer/songwriter Levi Celerio wrote over 4,000 songs. His unique ability to use the leaf as a musical instrument earned him international acclaim. The Guinness Book of Records called him the "only leaf player in the world."

Levi Celerio Songs
Levi Celerio's 21st death anniversary poster. Photo: @NCCAOfficial
Source: Facebook

Levi Celerio won many awards, including the 1997 Philippines National Artist for Music and Literature Award. He was famous and globally respected but never had a fat bank account like most iconic musicians. Celerio struggled financially from childhood until his demise.

Profile summary

Full nameLevi Celerio
Date of birthApril 30, 1910
Zodiac signTaurus
Place of birthTondo, Manila, the Philippines
Date of deathApril 2, 2002
Age at death91 years
FatherCornelio Cruz
MotherJuliana Celerio
Spouse Lina Celerio
High schoolTorres High School
Music studiesUniversity of the Philippines Conservatory of Music
Music trainingAcademy of Music in Manilla
OccupationMusic composer, songwriter
Burial siteLibingan ng mga Bayan cemetery

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Who is Levi Celerio?

Many share Levi Celerio's biography to inspire the world. The prolific Filipino composer & lyricist was known for using the leaf as a musical instrument.

Where is Levi Celerio born?

Levi Celerio was born on April 30, 1910, in Tondo, Manila, in the Philippines. He could not play instruments for long because he injured his arm while climbing a tree.

Who were Levi Celerio's parents?

His parents, Cornelio Cruz and Juliana Celerio, were from Baliuag in Bulacan. Levi's mum inspired his love for music. She was a harpist and church choir member.

Levi Celerio biography
Levi Celerio songs. Photo: @menchieteofisto
Source: Instagram

Celerio was a close acquaintance of gang leader Asiong Salonga. His mum used music to protect him from gang influence and distract him from their home and neighborhood's poverty.

Levi began playing the violin at age 11 and took lessons from a Philippine Constabulary Band member. He learned about his father while in high school.

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Cornelio Cruz was into the real estate and jewelry business. He did not marry Juliana and was not close to their son.

Who are Levi Celerio's siblings?

Levi's half-siblings are singer-comedian Veronica Palileo and director-actor Tony Cruz.


Celerio performed with the Philippine Constabulary Band while attending Torres High School. He also studied the violin at the Manila Conservatory of Music for two semesters.

The conservatory's director, Alexander Lippay, recommended Levi for a scholarship at an Academy of Music in Manilla. He became the youngest member of the Manila Symphony Orchestra.


Levi temporarily worked as a comic illustrator after breaking his wrist while climbing a tree. He later shifted to songwriting and became a renowned composer at home and abroad.

During Levi Celerio's twilight years, he contended with the Filipino music industry for his royalties. Levi did not receive his royalties most of the time. His friends protested due to his ill health, but he never ceased to perform for his audience.

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Levi Celerio biography
A rare poster of Levi Celerio. Photo: @abscbnfilmrestoration
Source: Instagram

In his old age, Celerio occasionally performed at concerts at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and played violin and piano at the Camelot Hotel bar and other small venues.

Levi Celerio's works

Levi Celerio wrote over 4,000 songs and co-wrote several songs with artists like Felipe Padilla de León and Lucio San Pedro. Some of Levi Celerio's songs are:

  • Ikaw
  • Kahit Konting Pagtingin
  • Saan Ka Man Naroroon?
  • Sa Ugoy ng Duyan
  • Ako ay May Singsing
  • Ang Pipit
  • Dungawin Mo Hirang
  • Itik-Itik
  • Pitong Gatang
  • Waray-Waray
  • Sa Ugoy ng Duyan
  • Maligayang Pasko at Masaganang Bagong Taon
  • Pasko Na Naman
  • Noche Buena

Levi Celerio's films

Celerio was among the best actors in the Philippines between the 1950s and 1960s. He portrayed various roles in Pinoy films, including a beggar, liquor thief, pickpocket, and a palm-reader.

After his Guinness recognition, he appeared in The Ed Sullivan Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and That's Incredible! Below are Levi Celerio's films:

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1959Pitong GatangNoYes
1960Bigay HiligYesYes
1962Markang RehasNoYes
1963Ang Babaeng IsputnikNoYes
1963Miting de AvanceNoYes
1966Franco MaderroYesNo
1966Mr. Humble Boy (Ang Dating Kampeon)YesNo
1968The Son of Vera CruzYesYes
1973Hanggang sa Kabila ng DaigdigNoYes
1992Mahirap Maging PogiNoYes

Who was Levi Celerio's wife?

Levi Celerio had four failed relationships. He married Lina Celerio, with who he had four children.

How old was Levi Celerio when he died?

The 91-year-old Celerio died at the Delgado Clinic, Quezon City, on April 2, 2012, due to multiple organ dysfunction. His demise came shortly after Lucio San Pedro's demise. The two co-wrote Sa Ugoy ng Duyan. Military honors filled Celerio's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayan cemetery.

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Levi Celerio awards
Levi Celerio's grave. Photo: @akosioteprn
Source: Instagram

Levi Celerio's awards

His career as a composer bagged him several awards, including:

  • The Lifetime Achievement Award (1989)
  • An honorary doctorate in the Humanities (1991)
  • The CCP Gawad Para Sa Sing Award (1991)
  • The Gawad Urian Award (1991)
  • National Artist for Music and Literature Award (1997)
  • The Guinness Book of Records Leaf Player Award

What is the contribution of Levi Celerio?

Celerio was recognized as a National Artist of the Philippines for Music and Literature in 1997. He wrote over 4,000 Filipino folk, Christmas, and love songs. Some of Levi Celerio's songs were used in films.

What was Levi Celerio's musical style?

His musical style is described as Filipino folk music, Western classical, and popular music.

What is the inspiration of Levi Celerio?

Schargel said her father heard the whistling of the trees and recreated what was music to his ears.

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What message does the lyricist Levi Celerio convey in his songs?

His songs express nationalistic sentiments and reasons to cherish life.

Facts about Levi Celerio

  • He first learned to play the leaf as an instrument during World War II.
  • He played a young leaf to Japanese soldiers to prove himself as a musician.
  • He dedicated most of his songs to his wife and children.
  • He published two poetry books, Take It From Levi and Filipino Palindromes.

Levi Celerio was a very influential Filipino composer. He developed music pieces of immense artistic and cultural value in a career spanning several decades.

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